Where Is the Safest Place in the Basement During a Tornado?

Updated on May 27, 2011
K.F. asks from Sunbury, OH
15 answers

Our tornado season officially starts in June and I am just trying to prepare a safe place in our basement. I am absolutely terrified of tornadoes. When I was pregnant with my son 3 years ago we had a severe storm that has really affected me to the point where I start shaking if theres a thunderstorm. Ever since these tornado outbreaks I have been obsessing about tornadoes and what I am going to do if we get any. So anyways, I have a basement (THANK GOD) but we have a huge workout gym and a treadmill on one side of the basement so I want to avoid that side since those could become flying objects. I have a small kitchen table we could go under and I have a bunch of pillows by there and 2 hockey helmets (my husband thinks I'm a nut job) but I didn't know where to put the table so I put it under the staircase thinking that would be the safest place? I am not sure if it is though. There is a concrete wall right there, the staircase isn't in the middle of the basement. If any of you know, would that be the safest place to go in my basement?

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Thank you everyone!!! you were all very helpful :)

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answers from Richmond on

Babies and toddlers should be in carseats... I happen to have an extra highback booster in my basement, that's where my 17 month old would go. Get as far away from any windows or vents, doors; anything that leads to outside. Stay in the part of the part of the basement that is the most underground. Hang on to any plumbing that goes underground. They say lay flat to prevent the wind from lifting you up, but honestly, I personally think that's how people get crushed in the event the entire thing comes straight down on top of you. If you have anything VERY solid to get underneath, do that (like my basement has steel beams in one part of the ceiling).

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answers from Lansing on

I've always been told to go into the south east corner in the basement and stay away from windows. Also make sure all doors and windows are closed.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Roanoke on

I think under the stairs if a good place to go. I grew up in the midwest, and there were many times that a tornado came dangerously close to our neighborhood, so we hid under our stairs in the basement a lot. We all had a role: my brothers were responsible for gathering the couch pillows and cushions and lining the area under the stairs. I had to grab the blankets and turn the radio on. My mom would unplug everything quickly (lightening struck our tv once and blew it up), and my dad would grab the pets and bring them down with us. It worked well, and we always felt safe.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Have a place and an emergency kit/bag that is always prepared if you are really worried. I do home daycare and we practice monthly drills (fire too) and I am sorta freaked out that none of my daycare kids know what to do at home.

I am required to do these for daycare licensing. My "kit" is an older backpack, with all the kids info of course. Plus a first aid kit, a few bottles of water, bottles and formula, a few diapers and bunch of wipes, a few flashlights ( small ones for the kids..keeps them busy during the drills or any warnings..mine is a hands free headlamp!), a weather radio and few other odds and ends to keep the kids distracted...fruit snacks, crackers and such. My place is under my crawl space and under there I already have my kitty cages (only time they are used is for vet visits so they are stored under there anyways)....a bunch of old comforters...an old carset (from my daughter who is 16...just a place to put a baby that is safe to sit them when I am dealing with up to 8 other kids and 2 cats)...and I store toys to switch out under there so my kids think its fun place to go! LOL They can walk under there and I have to crawl. But there are no windows, cement walls, dug down into the foundation, etc.

I suggest you make a little kit with flashlight, radio, etc...and do drills if you have a child old enough. I do this with 2 and 3 year olds every single month! If and when it happens for real, you will all know what to do without the extra panic involved! There is certainly a sense of security in knowing your plan went off without many hitches, rather than running amuck looking for a flashlight that works, etc!

My hubby spent last night helping good friends attempt to shore up their 100 year old house that was demolished mostly by a tornado that went thru North Minneapolis last weekend (a few miles from my home with many friends and my daughters school with dorm kids all in between....so I understand your worry)

Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

First of all, let me tell you that you're not the only one that is terrified of tornadoes. I have never been in one, but for some reason I get really worked up when there is a threat of severe weather. We live in Chicago, not right downtown, on the outskirts but still within city limits. Anyhow, my husband never gets concerned because according to him, we won't get a tornado in the city. True, it hasn't happened in a real long time, but I know it's possible. I emailed one of our local meteorologists and asked! Yesterday, I finally got my husband to agree with me that the threat can be very real and we started talking about where we would go if it ever happened. Unfortunately, we live in a 2nd floor condo, no basement, no interior rooms. The safest place I can come up with is the bottom of the stairs in front of our neighbor's unit, around the corner from the outside door. Otherwise, I would go into our stand up shower with the baby's mattress to cover us.

Sorry, I rambled, but to answer your question, I believe they always say to go to the corner facing toward the storm's approach, which would most likely be the southwest corner, if possible. If that's where all your workout stuff is though, I would pick the place where you will be most protected. I think I would avoid going under the stairs, because they could collapse on top of you.



answers from Indianapolis on

Up under the stairs, up against the wall if your basement is underground.



answers from Columbus on

Considering the normal movement patterns of tornadoes the safest place is the N.E. corner of your basement. This is the area least likely to be crushed if your home is pulled off the foundation. I took a Metorology course and that is what we learned.



answers from Oklahoma City on

I have been reading story after story about people who were seriously injured during the Oklahoma and Missouri tornadoes this past week. Many of them had the whole house cave in on them while they were in the basement. Several of the pictures showed the floorboards that had been on top of the basement just caved in, the floors just caved into the basement. I think if there is a tor/con in your area and they are saying tornadoes are coming that you need to go to the part of your basement furtherest from the outside walls, a storage closet or under stairs, a place you can be sure the falling debris from above won't hurt your family, etc....

For those not educated in storm precautions:
If tornadoes are in the county next to you or are within 50-70 miles take precautions. Getting in the bathtub and covering is NOT a safe place, it is a quick place to get if you are caught unaware. If a tornado hits your home and you are above the ground you will likely end up being seriously hurt, dead, or maimed. Many, many people who had taken precautions ended up dead in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and beyond. Listen to the weathermen in your area, follow their directions, call your civil defense offices and ask them where buildings are that offer protection. With the "sue you" happy people out there many buildings won't let you in because they are afraid of a lawsuit. Buildings that have basements are often hospitals, courthouses, older churches often have basements, some schools have them too. Just find out from your family and friends where there are safe places to go.

Plan ahead, be ready to go or go early. Going to a shelter area a half an hour early can sure save time and stress. Put some bottles of water in a bag you can carry on your shoulder, get diapers and pullups in there too, some formula in the can plus a bottle, add some coloring books and crayons for the little guys, add some good snacks, low salt so they don't end up terribly thirsty, buy a weather radio and keep it, with extra batteries in the bag too. Be prepared, plan ahead, know where you are going, how long it takes, alternative routes in case there is damage, plan ahead, practice if you need to, sleep in clothes and shoes, have rain gear on the doorknob with the emergency bag. Plan ahead, go early, don't panic.



answers from New York on

Anywhere except by the exercise equipment.



answers from Cheyenne on

I live in Wyoming and I too freak a bit with tornadoes (I FINALLY used to be fine with them...then last year, my husband had to go out of town and of course, the first day he leaves, I hear the sirens. Well, I turn on the weather channel to see what is going on and nothing...I listen for my weather radio to go off and nothing...my friend calls me and asks what it is about and I look out my east and west facing windows- I live on a prairie so nothing for miles!!!- and see blue sky and sun, so I tell her to just keep an eye out and to turn on the weather channel...our town will sometimes turn on the sirens for other things, like flooded roads to get people to go inside which takes the emergent out of them...stupid, I know! So I decide to let the dogs out quickly in case a storm was coming and sure enough, I go to open the door to let them out, take one look at the funnel cloud that is south and hightailed it downstairs with all the kids!!! Apparently, the police officer who called the funnel into the weather station gave a local landmark and the national weather station couldn't figure out where that landmark was (we have an area we call "the rocks" on the wyoming/colorado border...which is only 5 miles south of our house!!!!), so the only warning we got was the local siren...my weather radio NEVER went off! Scary, huh?!? On top of that, the cell towers overloaded with the mass of calls that came at once and stopped working so I couldn't even call my friend back to tell her that there really was a tornado! Luckily it moved west of my house at an angle away from town, but totally freaky! We had 3 more reported that night, but luckily my parents live in town so they came to "rescue" me and the boys and we slept at their house that night!)

We have a full unfinished basement (so I have 2 windows to worry about...luckily they have metal around the edge so I put up blankets over them with strong magnets to help keep glass from flying everywhere if they break). Every year, I stock our emergency box with water, snacks (granola bars, crackers), diapers/wipes or whatever the kids are in at the moment, toys/games, first aid kit, battery alarm clock (in case we need to sleep downstairs), comforters and pillows to pull on top of us, a chair for the youngest kiddos to be strapped into in case I have to run back upstairs for animals or whatever, flashlights, extra batteries, whistle and all our information (names, DOBs, emergency contacts/ph#s, blood type, important medical history). I have my weather radio upstairs so I try to think to grab it when we are under something and have considered getting a small wind up generator/flashlight/radio to plug things in if I need to in case of power outage. We have an area between our two sets of theater chairs in the center of the basement that we duck in...but if it got really close, I'd head under the stairs more (really near to our ducking area...I figure if the upstairs floor caved in, it would hopefully be caught on the two theater chairs or the uprights for the stairs would protect us some (though as I have researched today, someone brought up a good point...watch what furniture- heavy couches, fridges, dressers- are on the floors above you because if the floor collapses, those are coming down too, so it may change where I put us downstairs!)! We use the comforters to wrap around ourselves and over our heads to help protect ourselves from debris. I agree with the carseats and helmets too, but unfortunately, I don't have enough for all my daycare kids! I make sure the kiddos have lots of toys/puzzles to keep them busy and even have our portable DVD player that I put downstairs if I suspect something is coming so the kids have something to watch if the power goes out. This year, I even invested in some glow sticks/necklaces for the kids to help them not be so scared if the power goes out! For the dogs, I put a larger kennel downstairs that they go into when we go downstairs....keeps them from running all over the basement! We also have a tv hooked up to cable downstairs that is far away from our area but that I can still see (in case it "explodes") to keep abreast on where the weather is!

For those of you who do not have basements or in apartment buildings, here is a suggestion... I have it worked out with my neighbors who only have a crawl space that they can only access from the outside but are elderly and can't really crawl in well, that I will leave my house unlocked when we go downstairs and they can rush over to my house and let themselves in (I'm usually the one who contacts them all when we are under any type of severe weather watch/warning so they know if I am home or not). I have the same thing with my friend who lives a few blocks away in a trailer- in fact, she has a key just in case I am not home for some reason as trailers are almost as bad as standing outside during a tornado and I never want her or her kids stuck at her house! So, you should knock on the lowest level's apartment, introduce yourself and see if you can trade shelter for say, some cookies...:-)! Then when the storm comes, you have a safer place!

As far as your locations in the basement, find out where the majority of your storms come from (ours with severe storms usually head from the south/southeast), so the southeast corner would be the WORST side to be in, so other than that, the basements is about equal!



answers from Raleigh on

Do you have a bathroom down there? Inside the bathtub with pillows or a mattress on top of you is the safest bet. If not, put the table against the concrete wall, get under it on your knees, lower your head and cover your head and neck with your arms.
Hope this helps!


answers from Dallas on

I'm not laughing at your fear but it made me chuckle a little when you said the exercise equipment could become flying objects, but you feel safe under a kitchen table. Seems a little irrational! I'm not picking on you, it just made me realize how crazy our fears can make us.

I completely understand- all this severe weather had me thinking the same thing the other day- where would we hide? I'm in TX, I don't have a basement. We would have to hide in the bathroom or the coat closet.

Do you have bathroom fixtures in your basement? I think in that area would be best. Toilets/showers are anchored down with pipes & such- hunkering down in that area would probably be ideal. Other than that, I would suggest under the stairs (but you can probably leave the table out).



answers from Cleveland on

We have a small bathroom under the stairs in our basement, just a toilet really, but we all fit rather snuggly in there, the door closes and locks, we have cement walls on 3 sides and I'm just paranoid enough that I would secure the kids to the cast iron pipe that runs down the one wall (didn't they get saved holding a water pipe in twister?) if needed.



answers from Dayton on

Having grown up in tornado alley, we were always told to go to the corner of the basement that is most southwest as long as there are no windows or other obvious reasons not to, like hot water heater or furnace being there. This southwest rule only applies to basements. If on the first floor of a home with no basement, then the most interior room or closet is usually the the safest place. The reason they say the southwest corner of a basement is that is usually the direction the tornado will come from. So if it hits the house above you and blows it off the foundation, most of the debris will fall in the opposite corner, the northeast side of the basement.

However, under a stairwell, especially one along the foundation walls, is usually a good place because of the structural soundness of that area. A free standing stairwell to a basement does not have the same structural security. For many walk out basements, the best place is in a corner of the basement that has the most earth on the exterior of the walls. Once again, taking into consideration windows and making sure you are protected from flying debris.

I hope this helps.

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